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Tony Kornheiser

A Brain Can Only Hold so Much

July 25, 2001|Tony Kornheiser

Just the other morning, I was watching "The Today Show" when Katie Couric said something like, "Coming up we're going to focus on the ongoing stem cell debate."

The ongoing stem cell debate?

Ohmigod, which side was I on, stems or cells?

Tragically, I not only didn't know a stem cell debate was raging all over America, I didn't even know what a "stem cell" was. Stems and seeds, yes. That rang a bell. ("Oh, we're down to stems and seeds again. Bummer.") But for stem cell, I was drawing a blank (see above).

So I opened the newspaper and began reading about stem cells. And there was all this stuff about "surplus embryos" and "frozen embryos." And I said: Yikes! Check, please.

That's what Americans are talking about this summer, frozen embryos? Excuse me, what happened to frozen margaritas?

It's not like I don't think stem cell research is important. I'm sure it's important. (Here's what's not important: "Jurassic Park III." Who's idea was that? What next, "Jurassic Park IV," where the dinosaurs fight the Russian, Ivan Drago?)

It's not that I'm unsympathetic to stem cells and all they can do--especially as a border in your flower bed.

It's that I have finally accepted that I can't be up to speed on everything. It's a matter of prioritizing.

If I have to be up to speed on Gary Condit (and believe me, it's a full-time gig waiting for him to come out of his apartment every day wearing that frozen smile), stem cells just had to go.

My problem isn't stem cells, it's a lack of brain cells. I cluttered my brain with batting averages when I was a little kid, and rock 'n' roll lyrics when I was a teenager. The last 30 years or so I've tried to learn about adult things like 401(k) accounts, runny French cheeses and erectile dysfunction. I fear I'm tapped out. Katie Couric, I love ya, but the ongoing stem cell debate will have to go on without me.

Friends, tell me you feel this way, too. Tell me you don't have enough energy to tackle all the great issues of the day--like whose fault was it Julia Roberts and Benjamin Bratt hit the bricks?

First, Alec and Kim, and then Dennis and Meg, and Tom and Nicole--it's heartbreaking. It's like, hello, hell-o, can't we all just get along? I'll tell you another thing I don't have energy for: the debate over biotech corn. There's concern that genetically engineered corn (legally defined as "corn with a distinctive Dacron flavor") is making its way into the food supply.

Apparently, some people who've eaten it have had allergic reactions that range from "mild itch" to "full blown death." (The rest of us are merely mutating into rabbits.)

And people want to know what they can do to stop being slowly poisoned by this Naugahyde corn. Clearly the answer is: Eat freakin' broccoli.

Life is simply too short to waste any time on things like books about John Adams. Excuse me, the president after Adams was only the smartest man the country ever had, and the president before him was only the greatest wartime general the country ever had--other than Michael Corleone.

John Adams is basically a salami sandwich between these guys. Unless John Adams could do something really cool, like take the tip of his tongue and touch his eyeballs, I have no time for him.

Have you seen the bestseller list lately? Two of the top three sellers in nonfiction are "Who Moved My Cheese?" and "The Prayer of Jabez."

First of all, I don't care who moved your cheese; I care who cut the cheese. Second of all, one of these stupid books is 96 pages long; the other is 94. That's not a book, that's a catalog.

If all you have to do to get a bestseller is write 90 pages and slap a title on that rhymes with Cheese and Ja-beeze, how about "Who Slashed My Trapeze?" or, "Hey, Louise, I Lost My Keys, so I'm Down on My Knees, and Jeez I Think I've Gotta Sneeze, so Help Me Out and Order Some Cantonese, Please"? That's good, because the title alone might go 37 pages.

Most of the time, though, I feel a little like Betsy Gotbaum, the former president of the New York Historical Society, must feel--overwhelmed. The other night, Gotbaum introduced Bill Clinton at a fund-raiser for the society.

She introduced Clinton as "Richard Nixon."

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